Radiation damages during synchrotron X-ray micro-analyses of Prussian blue and zinc white historic paintings: detection, mitigation and integration
High-flux synchrotron techniques allow microspectroscopic analyses of artworks that were not feasible even a few years ago, allowing for a more detailed characterization of their constituent materials and a better understanding of their chemistry. However, interaction between high-flux photons and matter at the sub-microscale can generate damages which are not visually detectable. We show here different methodologies allowing to evidence the damages induced by microscopic X-ray absorption near-edge structure spectroscopy analysis (\(\mu\)XANES) at the Fe and Zn K-edges of a painting dating from the turn of the twentieth century containing Prussian blue and zinc white. No significant degradation of the pigments was noticed, in agreement with the excellent condition of the painting. However, synchrotron radiation damages occurred at several levels, from chemical changes of the binder, modification of crystal defects in zinc oxide, to Prussian blue photoreduction. They could be identified by using both the \(\mu\)XANES signal during analysis and with photoluminescence imaging in the deep ultraviolet and visible ranges after analysis. We show that recording accurately damaged areas is a key step to prevent misinterpretation of results during future re-examination of the sample. We conclude by proposing good practices that could help in integrating radiation damage avoidance into the analytical pathway.
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